Neil calls for better broadband in Queen's Speech debate

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith), who is an excellent member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

May I take the unusual step of offering congratulations to the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), the Leader of the Opposition, on his birthday today? He and I share the same birthday date—I am still trying to work out what else we share.

I welcome the Gracious Speech and the continuation of our very good economic policies, which are enabling our businesses and our constituents to create more jobs. We are reducing taxes to lower-paid workers and stimulating this economy and reducing debt at the same time. In particular, I welcome the greater emphasis on the digital economy, and the fact that we are giving every household a legal right to fast broadband. That will be a challenge.

I could not agree more. We are talking about people and about businesses. Out in the rural areas, we have many very good businesses, farms and individuals who need broadband and superfast broadband. I am talking about not just the money that needs to be put in to getting broadband into these areas, but the fact that we need to use every technology available. The Blackdown Hills and part of Exmoor are in my constituency, and not all areas will get fibre optic cable however we try to do it, so there needs to be both wireless and satellite operations. We must ensure that we get that broadband out. It is essential that we put as much pressure as we can on BT and others to deliver, as there is, at the moment, too much of a monopoly. There is not enough competition out there delivering broadband to all of our constituents.

I also welcome the modern transport Bill and the fact that we will have to change our taxation on cars. We have spent too many years concentrating on reducing the tax on diesel cars only to find now that nitric oxide appears to be the killer and that we need to re-educate people to buy hybrid cars and electric cars. We need to do a great deal to change people’s attitudes towards what they buy. There has been too much concentration in the past on the amount of carbon coming from a car, rather than on the nitric oxide, which is causing so many of the hotspots in our cities.

I also welcome the education Bill, and the fact that we are stepping back slightly from the idea that we will impose academies across the country. A Conservative policy is much more about evolution than revolution. Therefore, we must give people a chance to get there. I have many rural primary schools and small schools in my constituency. There is this idea of bringing together 3,000 or 5,000 children. I would probably need between ​50 and 100 schools to create that number of pupils. We must be careful about how we deliver such a policy. There is also another problem: some local authorities are better education authorities than others, and that must be taken into account when considering changes.

I also welcome the lifetime savings Bill. The idea that we can help young people and people on lower wages to save is essential. In the past, not only did Labour spend too much of taxpayers’ money, but we spent too much as individuals and did not save enough. I know that Governments love people to spend so that it boosts the economy, but there is also a great need for people to have greater savings. That is what we want to see happening.

 

I welcome the fact that the Queen’s Speech is very much a continuation of the Government’s policies in order to keep going. The one thing we must not do is change course. We must keep bringing down the deficit. On 23 June we need to make sure that we keep this country in the European Union so that we can prosper and grow our economy.